photos of and around Xindian City Hall MRT station

My friend David of David on Formosa kindly sent me lots of photos of the current signage at Xindian City Something-or-other Station. Here they are.

Note that some of the signage at the station itself gives the Tongyong Pinyin form (Sindian) as well as the Hanyu Pinyin form; but other signage does not. And the newest signs give Xindian City Office rather than Xindian City Hall.

MRT station main entrance, marked 'Xindian City Hall Station'

MRT station side entrance, marked 'Xindian (Sindian) City Hall Station'

Sign of things to come?
photo of station operation hours, with station name marked 'Xindian City Office Station'

sign on a pillar on the MRT platform reading 'Xindian City Hall'

closeup of a new map on a station wall, with the station called 'Xindian City Office'

map_detail

exit2

area_map

This closeup from the map above reveals that even city hall itself (not the MRT station) is labeled “City Hall.”

closeup from the photo above, as described

More than three years ago Taipei County Magistrate Zhōu Xīwěi (Chou Hsi-wei / 周錫瑋 / Zhou Xiwei) said that Taipei County should use the same romanization system as the city of Taipei (i.e., Hanyu Pinyin). But nothing has happened yet — not unlike his administration in general. So here we still see the Tongyong Pinyin form of “Sindian” rather than the Hanyu Pinyin form (now official at the national level) of “Xindian.”
photo of Xindian City Hall (the actual building, not the MRT station). It's labeled 'Sindian City Office'

Taipei County Police Bureau Sindian Precinct

You can’t fight city hall, er, office

This follows up my previous post: new Taipei MRT stations and wordy names.

Although the MRT system resists fixing the mistakes in its station names — such as in wordy, unnatural English names or misuse of Hanyu Pinyin — that doesn’t mean it never changes a name. It does — and here I’m referring to things beyond the usual matter of romanization systems. In recent weeks a long-established MRT station name has been undergoing a quiet change. As this case reveals, however, it appears that the authorities have a rule that opposes change unless they want to take a perfectly good name and make it worse.

I recently complained about the needless and indeed counterproductive insertion of Taipei and Nangang into station names, such as in the case of adding “Taipei” to the English name of what in Mandarin is only “Nángǎng Zhǎnlǎnguǎn” (南港展覽館). But that’s not the only case of “Taipei” given in an English name that doesn’t have the city name included in Mandarin. Two more instances of this are “Taipei Zoo,” which in Mandarin is simply Dòngwùyuán (動物園), and “Taipei City Hall,” which in Mandarin is Shìzhèngfǔ (市政府).

First let’s examine the case of “Taipei Zoo.” The Mandarin name for this is simply the word for zoo: dòngwùyuán. So in English why not call this stop simply Zoo instead of Taipei Zoo? (There’s certainly no Xindian Zoo, Banqiao Zoo, Xinzhuang Zoo, Sanchong Zoo, etc., anywhere on the MRT system.)

There’s no clear answer. Although Hanziphiles love to proclaim “Just one Chinese character is enough,” the Mandarin language is most definitely not a monosyllabic one, especially when it comes to place names. (See, for example, Taipei street names and the monosyllabic myth.) So it’s possible that what’s happening here is the habits of Mandarin are being overwritten upon English.

Interestingly, in metropolitan Taipei most native Mandarin speakers, if they had to add a geographical distinction, would probably call this the Mùzhà Dòngwùyuán (木柵動物園) rather than the Táiběi Dòngwùyuán (台北動物園).

I’m more interested, however, in the case of “Taipei City Hall,” which in which in Mandarin is Shìzhèngfǔ (市政府) — again, no Táiběi. In this case adding “Taipei” makes sense because there really is another city hall stop on the MRT system: Xindian City Hall, which in Mandarin is Xīndiàn Shìgōngsuǒ (新店市公所).

Translated literally, shìzhèngfǔ is city government and shìgōngsuǒ is city administrative office. They have different names in Mandarin because of Taiwan’s somewhat convoluted governmental structure, a shìzhèngfǔ having somewhat greater autonomy than a shìgōngsuǒ. Nevertheless, in English both would usually be called simply city hall. Although New York City has hundreds of times more people than, say, Hays, Kansas (population 20,000), both places have a city hall … because usually that’s what cities have, regardless of their size or importance.

And for years the Taipei MRT has had a station named “Taipei City Hall” and another named “Xindian City Hall,” which is of course as it should be.

Unfortunately, however, Taiwan’s bureaucracy does not agree. The RDEC, keeper of the government’s bilingual stylebook for organizations, says that a shìgōngsuǒ is a city office, not a city hall, which is perhaps what has prompted the authorities with the MRT to change the perfectly good English name of “Xindian City Hall Station” to the distinctly worse “Xindian City Office Station.”

Basically, if there’s a discrepancy between how something is usually said in English and how some government official in Taiwan thinks it’s supposed to be said in English, real English loses. The same applies to Pinyin, whose clear and simple rules continue to be ignored here.

Both names — Xindian City Hall and Xindian City Office — can currently be seen on signage in the MRT system. The system maps next to MRT car doors have Xindian City Hall (see image at the left below). But the new long strips above the MRT doors (right) have Xindian City Office.

I expect Xindian City Hall to disappear soon.

Can anyone tell me what’s currently on that station itself?

xindian_city_hall xindian_city_office

photo of the front of Xindian City Hall, across the street from the MRT station. The sign reads 'Sindian City Office'

new Taipei MRT stations and wordy names

detail of a map of the Taipei MRT system, showing 'Nangang Software Park' and 'Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center' on the brown line, connected by bus to 'Nangang' on the blue lineTaipei will soon open a dozen new stations on its mass-transit system, the MRT. Most of the stations will be in the relatively newly developed district of Neihu, with a couple in the Nangang district. It’s the latter two stations I want to focus on:

  • Nangang Software Park
  • Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center

Basically, these names suck.

The most obvious problem is that they both are unnecessarily long, which is not a negligible consideration for not only signage but also the MRT’s announcement system, which is in four languages: Mandarin, Hoklo, Hakka, and English. (It takes a while to get through all of those.)

Also, “Nangang Software Park” (Nángǎng Ruǎntǐ Yuánqū 南港軟體園區)? There is no other software park around the MRT system. Just “Software Park” would work better as a name for the station. Accurate, but also short, simple, and distinctive — just what such a name should be.

BTW, this software park is the source of the name for Taipei’s still-not-corrected Park Street signs.

Worse still is “Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center”. First, calling it even “Nangang Exhibition Center” would be bad enough for the same reason that “Nangang Software Park” is unnecessarily wordy: there’s no “exhibition center” anywhere else on the system.

But “Taipei Nangang”? Ugh. That may work in Mandarin, but it’s lousy English. It follows the same unnaturally inverted pattern and redundancy that gave us “Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport,” or, as I like to call it, Chinglish International Airport. (But I do like it better than “Revere the Dictator Chiang Kai-shek International Airport.”)

Here’s a photo of the exhibition building itself (not the MRT station — though those are the MRT tracks behind the barrier in the foreground).

taipei_nangang_exhibition_center

So “Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center” probably is the official name of the complex. But that really doesn’t matter because (1) the MRT station certainly does not have to have the exact same name and (2) the name is just plain stupid.

Above, I mentioned that names for MRT stations should be “accurate, but also short, simple, and distinctive.” Sticking “Taipei Nangang” in front of “Exhibition Center” makes the name clumsy and less distinctive, especially since the two MRT stations closest to “Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center” are called “Nangang” and “Nangang Software Park”.

Nangang, Nangang, Nangang — yeah, we get it: They’re in Nangang.

Perhaps the MRT would like to change other names to be similarly useful. For example, instead of “Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall” we could have “Taipei Zhongzheng Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall;” and in place of, say, “Xindian City Hall” we could have “Taipei County Xindian Xindian City Hall.” (More about the Xindian City Hall station in another post.)

But perhaps those names aren’t nearly informative enough. According to the MRT’s way of thinking, people might still be confused about the location. How about, say, “Planet Earth Northern Hemisphere Asia East Asia Taiwan Taipei Zhongzheng Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall” and “Planet Earth Northern Hemisphere Asia East Asia Taiwan Taipei County Xindian Xindian City Hall,” etc.?

I’m happy to report that even the MRT seems to have some reservations about ridiculously long names — at least when those names are in Mandarin. Note the photo of part of the route map (top right of this post). The Mandarin name for “Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center” is Nángǎng Zhǎnlǎnguǎn (南港展覽館), not Táiběi Nángǎng Zhǎnlǎnguǎn (台北南港展覽館). (I didn’t crop any characters from the left of the station name.) So why is “Taipei” in the English version but not in the Mandarin one? Does the city government believe that foreigners are so stupid that they fail to comprehend that the Taipei MRT system is indeed in the Taipei metropolitan area? If so, then maybe they should be giving consideration to my idea of putting at least “Planet Earth Northern Hemisphere Asia East Asia Taiwan Taipei” in front of all the names in the city of Taipei. This could come in in several versions:

  • “Planet Earth Northern Hemisphere Asia East Asia Taiwan, Republic of China, Taipei” — for pan-blue traditionalists
  • “Planet Earth Northern Hemisphere Asia East Asia Taiwan, which is really a country and not a part of China, Taipei” — for the pan-green crowd, and
  • “Planet Earth Northern Hemisphere Asia East Asia China Chinese Taipei Taipei” — for the unificationists and those who like to “q?n Zh?nggu├│

Then administrations could have fun changing from one system to another, depending on who was in power.

There’s more to say about this topic (e.g., how the names of stations such as Taipei Zoo, Taipei City Hall, and Xindian City Hall Office do or don’t fit into this pattern). But I’ve already written enough for one post.

And in case anyone is wondering: Yes, I have brought my concerns to the attention of the officials of the MRT. They don’t care. Does anyone have contacts in the media or with politicians?

photo of an entrance to the 'Nangang Software Park Station'

Obama, Bush, vitamin drinks, and puns

Here’s something from an ad I saw on the Taipei subway (MRT). It features cartoons of George W. Bush and Barack Obama shilling for some vitamin drink.

Cartoon figures of Bush and Obama, with Bush disdainfully tossing aside drink cartons labeled 'C' and Obama holding up a bottle of juice labeled 'C'. The text is as described below.

Bush (though he looks a bit more to me like the love child of W and maybe Prince Charles) is saying:

不C 不C
喝果汁不能只有維他命C

C, bù C.
Hē guǒzhī bùnéng zhǐyǒu wéitāmìng C.

A rough English translation, filling in a few gaps:

Not just vitamin C, not just vitamin C.
When you drink fruit juice, you should not settle for just vitamin C.

Note: The C is italicized in the Pinyin version to emphasize that this is pronounced like a foreign (i.e., English) letter C rather than how C is pronounced in the Pinyin alphabet. The reason for this is that “bù C” is a pun on “Bush”, whose name in Taiwan is generally pronounced in Mandarin as Bùxī, unlike in China, where it is usually pronounced Bùshí.

Obama’s lines are more interesting:

歐八馬歐八馬 (台語)
買果汁不要黑白買

Read in Mandarin this is:

Ōubāmǎ [Obama], Ōubāmǎ (Táiyǔ).
Mǎi guǒzhī bù yào hēibái mǎi.

And roughly in English this is

Obama, Obama (Taiwanese)
When you buy fruit juice, don’t buy just whatever

But the text tells people to read 歐八馬 (Ōubāmǎ/Obama) as Taiwanese (Táiyǔ), which means that it’s pronounced Au3-peh4-be2, which is a pun with what is written, in red for emphasis, 黑白買.

黑白買 in Mandarin is hēibái mǎi, which means to buy things indiscriminantly. In Hoklo (Taiwanese), however, this expression is O.1-peh4-boe2, thus a pun on Au3-peh4-be2 (Obama).

Also, hēibái by itself is simply “black [and] white” (as in Obama and Bush).

And Obama’s name, like Bush’s, has different Mandarin forms in Taiwan and China. But that doesn’t have much to do with the ad.

As always, I welcome those who (unlike me) know Taiwanese romanization well to correct anything that needs fixing.

weiird typos

The Qíngtiāngāng part of Yangming Shan National Park (Yángmíng Shān Guójiā Gōngyuán / 陽明山國家公園), to the north of Taipei, is distinguished by grasslands high in the mountains — the sort of open, natural place that, though not spectacular, might still make someone used to living in crowded northern Taiwan want to do the Julie-Andrews-hills-are-alive twirl. But, as usual, I’m only going to show you some signs. Here goes.

wooden directional signs reading '擎天崗遊客服務站 Ciingtiangang Visitor Center / 許顏橋 Siyuiannciiao / 上磺溪停車場 Parking-Lot Shanghuangsiyi'

wooden directional sign reading '金包里大路城門 The Gate Of Jiinbaolyi Road'

wooden directional signs reading '風櫃口 FenggueiKou' and '竹篙山 Mt.Jhwugao'

Ciingtiangang, Siyuiannciiao, Jiinbaolyi. Normally the presence of doubled vowels indicates the use of Gwoyeu Romatzyh (e.g., rice-flour noodles as miifeen rather than Hanyu Pinyin’s mǐfěn). But these signs are most definitely not in Gwoyeu Romatzyh. They’re just really screwed-up Tongyong Pinyin.

Sign Tongyong Pinyin Hanyu Pinyin Gwoyeu Romatzyh
Ciingtiangang Cingtiangang Qíngtiāngāng Chyngtiangang
Siyuiannciiao Syuyan ciao Xǔyán qiáo Sheuyan chyau
Shanghuangsiyi Shanghuangsi tingchechang Shànghuángxī tíngchēchǎng Shanqhwangshi
The Gate Of Jiinbaolyi Road Jinbaoli dalu chengmen Jīnbāolǐ dàlù chéngmén Jinbaulii dahluh cherngmen
FenggueiKou Fongguei Kou Fēngguì kǒu Fengguey koou
Mt.Jhwugao Jhugao Shan Zhúgāo Shān Jwugau Shan

Two of Tongyong Pinyin’s most distinctive features are the use of jh– for what in Hanyu Pinyin is zh– and the use of fong rather than the feng found in Hanyu Pinyin, MPS2, Wade-Giles, Yale, and Gwoyeu Romatzyh. But whoever produced these signs couldn’t get even those right, as shown by Jhwugao and FenggueiKou.

A few misc. notes:

  • FenggueiKou: Die, InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion, die! Or in this case perhaps I should write IntercapitalizaTion.
  • It’s supposed to be “km”, not “Km”.
  • Even the signs that got “km” correct left out the necessary space before it.
  • The Gate Of Jiinbaolyi Road: An initial “The” is almost never needed on such signs; indeed, its presence is counterproductive. And the capitalized “Of” is amateurish.
  • Parking-Lot Shanghuangsiyi: Oh, that’s just too depressing.
  • Ciingtiangang Visitor Center: Leaving out that extra i would help the missing s fit in, as would abbreviating “center” or simply leaving out Qingtiangang altogether. It’s not like there are any other visitors’ centers around there to confuse people. But since the English-speaking world is filled with places marked “visitor center”, it’s probably not worth having mentioned.
  • Siyuiannciiao: I’m puzzled that ciao/qiao wasn’t translated as bridge (and written with a space before it). Is there not actually a bridge there?
  • Mt.Jhwugao: Again, are spaces really all that difficult?
  • I could probably talk about the orthography of a few of the names (e.g., Jinbao Li vs. Jinbaoli, Shanghuang Xi vs. Shanghuangxi, Fenggui Kou vs. Fengguikou); but that’s something well beyond the common awfulness of these signs. And it might also require some research, such as finding the answer to “Is there really a stream [] at Shanghuangxi/Shanghuang Xi?”)

The government’s list of Pinyin and English terms related to Yangming Shan National Park, Yángmíng Shān Guójiā Gōngyuán xiāngguān míngcí, doesn’t give any of those incorrect forms. (Anyway, the list, which is in Tongyong Pinyin, is now outdated because of the switch — at least on paper — to Hanyu Pinyin.) And I can’t think of any good reason for the doubled i’s, the interposed y’s, or the other errors. Apparently, these signs are just plain-ol’ awful.

So I don’t have anything particularly interesting to note about the linguistics of this. But I do have a point other than that some typos are weiird weird enough that I can’t help but mention them. Rather, it’s worth noting that just because over the past few years many signs — but not nearly as many people believe — went up in tòng yòng, er, Tōngyòng Pinyin, this doesn’t mean the signs were done properly and wouldn’t require replacement even if Taiwan weren’t switching to Hanyu Pinyin.

another nail in the coffin of nicknumbering

I haven’t posted anything in Pinyin lately. So here’s a story from a couple of days ago, giving some of the history of Taipei’s stupid and now disavowed “nicknumbering” system, under which the city’s main roads were given numbers for the supposed convenience of foreigners. But since no locals knew these numbers, the nicknumbering system helped basically no one find anything — something the city should have figured out before it wasted all that money putting up signs. The real problem was that the romanization on the city’s signs was FUBAR — something that was finally addressed a little later.

Táiběi shìyìyuán Lǐ Xīn zhǐchū, Táiběi shìzhèngfǔ zài Mínguó 89 nián [2000 — I’ve changed the rest of the dates to international years] tuīchū de “dàjiē dàdào” (lùpái jiāzhù Yīngwén xùhào) zhèngcè, jìngrán zài 7 yuè jīng shìzhǎng Hǎo Lóngbīn tóngyì, juédìng “bù wán le”. Tā tòng pī shì-fǔ zhèngcè fǎnfù, bànlǐ dānwèi Mínzhèngjú zéwúpángdài, yīng gěi shìmín yī ge jiāodài.

Mínzhèngjú biǎoshì, zǎo zài 2002 nián tǒngyī shǐyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn qián, yǐ tuīdòng “dàjiē dàdào” zhèngcè, gù bùfen biāoshì pái cǎi Tōngyòng Pīnyīn, liǎngzhě luóji bìngbù yīzhì; cǐwài, yuèláiyuè duō wàijí guānguāngkè juéde lái Táiwān jiùshì yào tǐhuì “Zhōng-xiào, Rén’ài, Xìnyì, Hépíng” de Rújiā jīngshén shì mìngmíngfǎ, shùzì xíng jiēdào míng fǎn’ér xiǎnde méiyǒu tèsè.

Mínzhèngjú juédìng cóngshànrúliú, gǎi yǐ Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zuòwéi tǒngyī yìyīn, bùzài zhíxíng “dàjiē dàdào” zhèngcè.

Lǐ Xīn biǎoshì, shì-fǔ yǐ “fāzhǎn guānguāng, xiézhù wàijí rénshì biànrèn” wéi yóu, 2000 nián qǐ dàzhāngqígǔ, jiāng shìnèi 10 tiáo dōng-xī xiàng zhǔyào dàolù dìng míngwéi “dì-yī zhì dì-shí dàdào”; 14 tiáo nán-běi xiàng zhǔyào dàolù dìng míngwéi “dì-yī zhì dì-shísì dàjiē”.

Bùjǐn zài zhèxiē lùduàn de lùpái, shì-fǔ xuānchuánpǐn dōu xīnzēng xiāngguān Yīngwén biāoshì, yě yāoqiú yuánjǐng shújì, yǐbiàn zhǐyǐn wàijí guānguāngkè.

Bùliào shíguòjìngqiān, céngjīng bèi lièwéi qián Táiběi shìzhǎng Mǎ Yīngjiǔ zhòngyào zhèngjì de dàjiē dàdào zhèngcè, yīn shíshī guòchéng hùnluàn, xiàoguǒ bùjiā, yǐ yóu Hǎo Lóngbīn qiānzì juédìng “shōubīng” bùzài shīxíng, wèilái jiāng zhúbù yǐ Hànyǔ Pīnyīn tǒngyī yìyīn.

Mínzhèngjú biǎoshì, 1998 nián guānguāng wěiyuánhuì wěiyuán kāihuì shí, dāngshí yà dōu lí zhì zǒngcái Yán Chángshòu tíchū fǎngxiào guówài dàjiē dàdào mìngmíng fāngshì, huòkě tíshēng lái Táiwān guānguāng de wàijí lǚkè, zài Táiběi jiào yì biànshí fāngwèi; shì-fǔ jīngguò duōfāng pínggū, 2000 nián zhèngshì tuīdòng dàjiē dàdào zhèngcè.

Bùguò zài lùpái jiāzhù Yīngwénbǎn dàjiē dàdào míng hòu, duì wàijí lǚkè bāngzhù bùdà, bùshǎo běndì mínzhòng bèi wèndào “dì-yī dàdào zài nǎli?” fǎn’ér yī tóu wùshuǐ, gēnběn huídá bù chūlai. Yīncǐ jiēxiàlái shì-fǔ huì zhúnián biānliè yùsuàn, yǐ Hànyǔ Pīnyīn tǒngyī lùpái yìyīn.

Thanks, Dan, for alerting me to this.

source: Dàjiē dàdào bù wán le — yìyuán tòng pī (大街大道不玩了 議員痛批), United Daily News, October 27, 2008

Park Street redux

As some of you may recall, last October I wrote about finding official signs for a Taipei street that used English rather than romanization (Street names in English translation: trend or error?).

Some of the signs for what is written in Hanzi “園區街” (Yuánqū Jiē) read, in Taipei’s standard but stupid InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion, “YuanQu St.” while others read “Park St.” (which, by the way, is a misleading translation). I called the Taipei City Government about this and was informed that Park was an error and that the signs would be fixed to read Yuanqu.

Nearly a year has gone by since then. Have any of the street signs been changed?

The answer is yes. The signs, including some new ones, are indeed consistent. All of them now read — have you guessed it yet? — “Park St.”

That’s right: They eliminated the signs that were correct and put up new signs that are wrong. I’m trying to relax, so I won’t write out all of the many maledictions I have been muttering about Taipei City Government and its bureaucracy.

Here’s one of the street signs in October 2007:
YuanQu St.

Here’s the same sign in August 2008:
Park St.

A close-up, showing how “Park” was pasted over “YuanQu”.
closeup of the sign, showing how 'Park' was pasted over 'YuanQu'